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Venice Boardwalk Circus Could See More Rules

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Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 7:31 AM

click to enlarge boardwalk.jpg
The circus that is the Venice boardwalk, especially in warm summer months, is one of Los Angeles' more endearing displays, a drama that showcases a beach-side slice of the city's broad diversity and liberal soul. It's not always so endearing, however, to some who live nearby. Venice has changed, and multimillion-dollar homes owned by magnates and movie stars are more common, especially along the waterfront. For the newer, moneyed class of 90291 residents, drums, chants, boom-boxes, crowds and fights among vendors and crafts vendors can sometimes make the scene more chaotic and less idyllic.

The City Council next month will, after three years, finally get a shot at throwing some new rules around the boardwalk, including banning the use of musical instruments and amplified sounds between sunset at 9 a.m., mandating that performers with audiences of 25 or more people regularly rotate to allow others to use public space, and possibly extening the lottery system for arts and crafts sales spaces on the west side of the walk year-round (not just in summer) if there's demand for it.

The new ideas are part of a larger ordinance sponsored by area Councilman Bill Rosendahl that would impose tougher rules on the commerce and expression that happens along the walk.

The council will consider, for example, how to ensure that the arts-vendor lottery system isn't exploited by cheaters, as is the case now. Some sellers, for example, have extended family members apply for the random lottery that decides who gets a spot on the boardwalk, thus increasing their chances. Others who win those spots have been know to sell them. And some sellers are peddling souvenirs, not art -- as they're supposed to. Many are there to turn a profit, too, which irks the storefront retailers on the east side of the walk to have to collect and pay sales tax, obtain permits and pay rent.

One idea is to have an independent "peacekeeper" appointed to walk around the area and ensure, for example, that what's being sold for nonprofit "donations" is actually art and not something purchased in bulk in the Toy District downtown and sold at a profit.

The council could have an ordinance ready for a vote next month, according to a Rosendahl staffer.

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